Monday, January 28, 2013

unexpected prayer at Trader Joe's

It was later on a Sunday night -- after the afternoon rush and right before closing -- and a handful of us were out gathering groceries at the local Trader Joe's.  There was a weariness about the room -- from the employees, having just dealt with the busiest day of the week; and from the shoppers, realizing the week was over, tomorrow would be Monday, and we still had to go home and unpack the food.

Image by IlsesPunkFan on flickr

Certainly, I was weary and anxious to get out of there.  But as I scanned the available checkout lanes, I realized I would probably have to hunker in for a few extra minutes, seeing as nearly everyone was shopping for two weeks' worth of groceries (myself included).

I got in a lane behind a woman and her two daughters.  The woman looked completely stressed.  Her oldest daughter was begging for strawberries.  "But they're so good," she argued her case.  Her poor, frazzled mother said in hushed tones, "We can't do it."  "But mooooommmmmm!"  "No, we can't.  We can't afford it."  This went on for a little bit, while the cashier entertained the younger girl with bagging tips (he was a pro!).

Then the woman went to pay for her groceries, sheepishly offering up her EBT card.  "I don't know how to do this," she half-apologized to the cashier, who was a complete gentleman about the whole thing and walked her pleasantly (and discreetly) through the process.

As I stared into my purse, or at my phone, or around the store at the Trader Joe's artwork adorning the walls, I inwardly was saying to the woman, "I get it.  I do.  We're nearly there as well, and one more pregnancy at our current income, we'll be in your shoes.  It's rough out there.  It's hard to make a living, especially in this area.  I get it." 

I know a number of people who are on, or have been on, governmental help such as food stamps and WIC.  We've looked into it ourselves.  It's not a shameful thing, but a reality that many have to face.  It's a tough economy.  It's hard to raise a family and provide for them.  But I guess even if you know it, it's still difficult to swallow some pride and use the EBT card.

So instead of inwardly saying stuff to this woman that she would not hear, I just started praying for her: "Lord, please give them abundance.  Give them some sort of break -- extra money this month, extra money for a while.  Shower them with blessings, and let them know it comes from You."

And I wished so dearly that we had a disposable income that I could somehow discreetly pay for her groceries, or somehow slip some cash into her purse without her noticing, or something.  I've heard of people doing such things, especially around holidays, and I so wished I could do something tangible.

But instead, all I had was the prayer.  And so I offered it.

  • When have you been led to prayer in unexpected places?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the birth story I never told

Elliott told me I should blog about my thought-processes on birth.  I never really wanted to do so for various reasons, but my husband's probably right.

But before I do I feel I must say: I do not judge any woman her desire for the birth experience in her heart, or the birth experience she ends up having.  It's such a personal matter, and there are so many things at play.  I also do not judge anyone for decisions made in the pain of the moment.  But I am hardest on myself, and my birth experience was just... difficult.  For me.

This is just my story.  That's all.

Some women share their birth stories right after they happen, but I didn't dare.  I didn't want to expose myself in this way, because I felt like I failed myself.

I realize that I didn't fail, but I didn't admit to anyone how it felt to leave the hospital -- having given birth in the exact opposite way I had hoped.  This pregnancy is bringing all these thoughts back up for me -- forcing me to deal with them -- because I get to make new decisions now.  And I want to make the ones that -- even if the birth doesn't go as planned (and which ones do?) -- will let me feel empowered.

Warning: If you are pregnant with your first child, just think twice about reading this story.  It's not the worst story of them all, but I know it doesn't help women to hear "horror" birth stories, so if you're super sensitive, just disregard the post.  Or just know I warned you.  I don't want to discourage anyone.

The Plan
When I first found out I was pregnant with Gwendolyn, I (without thinking much about it) decided to go the traditional route: doctor, hospital, and (yes) epidural.  I didn't even give it a second thought.  I like safety and I dislike pain -- plus all the closest people in my life went with this route, so it seemed like the obvious choice.

That changed around week 30 when we attended our birthing class.  We learned about breathing, about all the different types of drugs they offer, and got a tour of the hospital.  When I learned about the drugs, I decided that I didn't want to go with any drugs.  I wanted a natural childbirth.  Then I watched The Business of Being Born.  I was further convinced.

The problem was that I was 30 weeks pregnant, and we weren't/aren't wealthy.  This means: my choice in provider was already done (many providers will not take on new clients after a certain time in the pregnancy -- even if you've just moved into the area), the decision to go natural was last minute (hence no real planning), and we had no money for special birthing classes or doulas.  So I just tried to arm myself with whatever I could -- practicing breathing, picking out verses to read during birth, compiling playlists, bringing the yoga ball to the hospital, and just a lot of concentration ("This is what we're doing.  An epidural is not an option.").

God also seemed to be answering prayers.  We found a couple from our church that agreed to be present with us through the birth, helping us focus on natural birth.  So God provided "doulas" of sorts -- no charge.

I was really convinced it was going to happen the way I wanted, and it was so important to me that it did.  Carrying a child and giving birth is one of the most awesome (THE most awesome?) opportunities/life experiences.  I wanted to experience it as fully as possible, and I had a feeling that if I could give birth naturally, then I would conquer a lot of my fears and anxieties.

The Reality
 Well, the first thing that went awry was that I was induced.  Gwenny was measuring little in her abdomen, which means they weren't sure the proper amount of oxygen was getting to her brain.  So the plan was to induce my on my due date (June 19 - our wedding anniversary -- Happy Anniversary to us!).  You couldn't even believe the amount of praying that went into the weeks before -- begging the Lord for an early, natural labor -- pressing all the pressure points possible "known" to induce labor.  But of course nothing happened, and on June 19, we headed into the hospital.

This photo is so funny because I was SO upbeat at this point, naively thinking, "Hey!  I'm going to have a baby in a few hours!"

Let me just say that my body and the baby were NOT ready to go into labor.  

Induction took FOR.EV.ER

We arrived at 7pm and the induction started with a little pill.  I'm not going into details about it, but after you've been given the pill (and you can be given this pill MULTIPLE times before anything happens), you can't move for a couple hours, and then you have to wait 4-6 hours between each pill.  The hope is that one pill will cause contractions, but if they aren't strong enough, you have to get another pill.  I can't remember exactly, but I know I had at least two pills, and I think I had three.  This means that I was in bed for a LONG time -- very uncomfortable, full of adrenaline, etc. so I didn't sleep that first night.  

Sometime during the second day, the contractions started.

I was wiped out.  So was Elliott.  I sent him to my brother's house to sleep for a bit, and had my mom stay with me and play cards (I think that's what happened?).  But then the contractions got worse and worse and I called Elliott and woke him up to come back.

Yet every time they checked me, I was only 1 cm dilated.  FOR HOURS.  1 cm.  So I kept getting a pill and they said it wasn't time for pitocin (this is the powerful stuff that guarantees labor).  Also, the hospital was a teaching hospital which meant that residents would come in and try to see how far along I was.  I actually had a resident tell me I was 5 cm, before the doctor corrected her and was all like, "No, actually, she's still 1."  Talk about mind games.

Finally -- after who knows how long -- it was time.

That Dreadful Night
So they started the pitocin.  Time was fuzzy, and it just got fuzzier from here-on-out, so I can't tell you the timing of everything (although it was definitely the second day by this point, or at least the wee hours of the morning -- like 1 am or 2 am or something, but I really don't remember).

Once the pitocin started, things got rough fast.  The contractions were crazyBut we -- as a team, Elliott and I -- were FOCUSED.  We were breathing, doing our on ad-hoc actor/vocal exercises (I found these to be particularly helpful), and were doing great (except for the fact that it was the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life, but whatevs).  After a few hours (?), they checked.  

1 cm.

1 cm!!!!!!

1 cm?????!!!   

I couldn't believe it.  I hadn't slept in almost two days.  I was working so hard.  I was in the worst pain ever.  And I wasn't dilating.

They offered one recommendation for me to dilate -- again, no details here -- but it sounded incredibly painful.  So I said yes.  But first:


Whatever was available -- whatever would help me sleep (that was the main thing), I just wanted it.  I didn't care any more.

I totally gave up.

At least, that's how it felt.  Like I gave up.  I lost.  The pain won.
I was defeated.  Disempowered.  

... I also felt a lot better.  Physically.

The rest of the labor was... bizarre.  I felt waves of contractions like an ocean swell, but nothing hurt.  I slept.  My parents came in and we all hung out until it was time to push.

But by that point, the epidural had slowed down my contractions so much that they were five minutes apart (if you've been at a birth, you know that this is not a good point for the contractions to slow down).  When I started pushing, the doctors were so excited, "Any minute now!"  "Some women push for three hours, but you'll be done in 15 minutes!"

Three hours later...


Gwendolyn was there.  And it was -- as you'd expect -- the most blessed moment of my life, seeing my little baby in my arms, looking up at me with her BIG amazing eyes.

 Oh my gosh - HOW are newborns so TINY?

I have to pause a minute to let my heart be still.
It is a miracle.  And worth every hour of horrendous labor.

And I was always thankful that I didn't have to have a C-Section, mainly because of the difficult recovery.  I was very fortunate that the hospital was trying their best to lower their C-Section rate.  I have a feeling that in most hospitals, I would've had a C-Section as soon as we hit the 24-hour mark, or at least after 2 hours of pushing.  So there ARE things I am very thankful for.

But it was still... just horrendous.  Awful.  One of the worst experiences of my life.  And I felt so helpless.

I don't want to feel that way again.

Postpartum is another story -- one that I will have to share in another post (if I ever get around to it) because it's its own beast that no one talks about.

The Future
Moving forward, I have decided that yes -- it is still important to me, for many reasons, to have a natural childbirth.  And even if things don't turn out as I plan, I want to prepare myself with what I know and what I need.  I am making decisions -- have been making decisions -- from day one that are different than the last time.

First: I am going to a midwife practice (still in a hospital though -- ya know, just in case).
Second: I have a doula (not one that we're paying for -- one who is still in training).
Third: I know what didn't work last time, and the circumstances that will help me this time.  I know more about myself and my body/temperament than I did before.  This helps immensely, and my doula has helped uncover things for me that I never would have known before.
Fourth: I have a different outlook on natural childbirth this time.  Before, it was more about "proving" to myself that I could do it.  Now, it's more about what's best for me and my baby.  The pain is awful, but labor is not a sickness to be cured.  I want to see how the pain will assist in the labor -- how it can lead me into knowing what to do during the birth. 
Fifth:  I will not let a non-natural childbirth rob me of this empowering experience.

Will it go perfectly?  No.  No birth ever does.  And maybe I will have another epidural, but I will know I've made the best choices for myself and my baby along the way.  It's amazing -- incredible -- to have a support team that has been there for me, and they've really helped me uncover pieces about my story, experience, and myself that I would never have been able to do on my own.
 34 1/2 weeks.  CRAZY.

So if I had to give any advice to someone going into labor the first time, I'd just say -- surround yourself with people who will support you and make decisions that give you peace going into it.  And really do some research early on -- you may be surprised at what will give you peace when the time comes.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

to which sins am I still clinging?

"You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence."
Psalm 90:8

My feet hit heavy on the solid pavement that sunny, brisk day.  All around me, the noises of New York filled the air, but I couldn't hear them.  I was lost in my own cloud.  It was if a deep, dusky fog had descended into my head, and all around me was muck.  In fact, I felt as though I had been walking around for so long in the muck that it had entered into my lungs.

Why do I feel this way?

I got onto the subway and plugged my ears with music to drown out the conflicting thoughts crowding my brain.  Usually, my efforts to lose myself in music were a mindless habit, but today this act was very conscious.  I didn't want to think about the mess of my life.  I didn't want to mull over my actions.  I didn't want to come to terms with how my life choices were affecting my soul -- once so full of hope and life, but now full of despair and death.

How do I get out of this mess?

At some point between the subway and NJ transit, I must have talked to God -- taking my inner questions and directing them towards Him.  At some point, I really wanted to listen to His response.  At some point in that journey, I was ready to hear Him and obey, no matter what the cost.

Just stop.

That's the response I heard.

I waited.

Nothing else.

Just stop.

Would that be it?  To get myself out of the muck and mire -- to release my soul from the burden I had built around myself -- to clear my head from the fog -- just stop?  Just stop.  It sounded so simple.  And maybe it was.

I don't want to live steeped in sin.  
It doesn't feel like freedom;
it feels like bondage.
I want to be free.

It was as if for the first time in many years, I was seeing my life exposed to the Light -- as if God were letting me see my life through His eyes.  And I didn't like what I saw.  It was ugly, and it felt ugly.  I wanted out.  

And just then, the lyrics of a Nicole Nordeman song filled my head -- I put the earbuds in and let the song wash over me --

The gate is wide
The road is paved in moderation
The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in
Welcome to the middle ground

You're safe and sound and
Until now it's where I've been

'Cause it's been fear that ties me down to everything
But it's been love, Your love, that cuts the strings

I am small
And I speak when I'm spoken to
But I am willing to risk it all
I say Your name
Just Your name and I'm ready to jump
Even ready to fall...

Why did I take this vow of compromise?
Why did I try to keep it all inside?

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave

I clung dearly to those words, and let the wind rush over me as trains passed by.  I had never felt so free before.  To lead a life with God -- to be free from my sins -- I just had to stop it.  Let go.  I wanted to be brave -- to let myself live differently -- to change.

So what happened?
Why didn't I start living differently?

There was no happy ending that day.  It was a surface change of heart.  Yes, I wanted it -- I wanted to follow the Lord -- but I was so entrenched in sin that I didn't see that habits needed to change.  I went about my life just hoping that God would keep me from my sinful nature.  

That didn't happen -- at least, not that day.  It would be another couple years before I was able to actually stop -- before I was brought so low that there was nothing to live for other than Christ.  God was giving me a way out that day -- a clear view into the path I was going down and where it would lead -- and ultimately, I rejected it.

How often do I still reject His freedom?
How often do I still cling to sin?
How often do I refuse to change habits, to listen, to obey?

To what am I still clinging?
Where do I need to obey?

What about you?  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Potty-Training a 19-month-old? (Why no - no, I'm not!)

A couple months ago, I declared and documented my first attempts at potty-training.  Yes, Gwendolyn is young, but she had been displaying definite signs of being able to potty-train.  And I figured it was worth a shot.  Why change two sets of diapers when one of your children is ready for the potty?

After a couple weeks of effort, a resurgence of interest in the potty from the little one, and a successful episode with the potty (which -- yes -- precipitated a wildly-ridiculous but much-deserved "POTTY DANCE" from the Simko family -- emphasis on those capital letters, and the word ridiculous), I've decided to let potty-training take a backseat.

What made me change my mind?  Here are the reasons.

1) The Possibility of Regression

I've heard from many-a-seasoned parent that even if you make great strides with potty-training, a major life event could inadvertently push that "reset" button in your child.  A "major life event" could be something as minor as moving your child into a big kid bed or something as major as having a baby.  Since having a baby is becoming more and more real at our house (34 weeks??  Where did you COME from?), I figured Gwen would probably regress.  When I started, I really thought we'd have more time to train before Birdie made her appearence on the scene, but then I realized...

2) The Reality of Baby

Again, let me emphasize my shock: 34 weeks.  That doesn't sound like a big deal if Birdie arrives on-time or later, because that would mean I have at least 6 weeks left.  But if she were to come at 37 weeks, then my goodness:  we only have 3 more weeks left to prepare.  That sudden dose of reality made me come to terms with the fact that making a solid, consistent effort towards potty-training would just be futile right now, which brings me to number 3...
3) My Energy Level (of lack-thereof)

I have very limited energy right now.  Some days (like today) are great: I've already done a workout, worked for an hour for my freelance gig, spent time with Gwen, and am sitting down to write this post.  It's a good day.  But yesterday?  I changed our sheets and washed the dishes and felt like I'd done enough for the day.  Because I am running on limited energy -- the amount of which changes daily -- I have to keep my schedule very open and flexible.  So if I can't sweep and mop the floors, it's not a big deal.  No one really cares but me (and Gwen -- who seems to have picked up a little bit of my OCD).  But if I was spending all my energy on potty-training, then I think the results would have been frustrating for me, Gwen, and that guy who has to gets to live with us (hi Elliott!)I have to say that Elliott's been a sincere trooper as it is with my irrational outbursts, so I don't think I'd want to put him through much more of those panic attacks.  The bottom line: I need my energy, so I'm shelving the potty-training.

4) Realization: It's Actually Easier to Change Two Sets of Diapers

Another thought dawned on me as potty-training wore on (and maybe it was actually said by a reader): let's say Gwen WAS potty-trained in time for baby and DIDN'T regress, it would actually be a lot more work to have her potty-trained.  Instead of changing a diaper every 3 hours, I'd have to be on the lookout for a potty every hour, and carrying around a stash of emergency-clothes-and-diapers-and-other-needed-supplies.  I'd prefer to just change a diaper every couple hours.  So that's what we're doing.

In Conclusion

All this being said, Gwendolyn is still interested in the potty.  When she asks to sit on the potty, certainly I drop everything and we camp out in the bathroom for a half hour or so.  We even have a basket of books to read in the bathroom whenever she declares it's "potty time."  But at this point, I'm letting Gwen take the lead -- although I do believe that my brief initial "push" has gotten her used to the whole "potty time" idea.  I've heard from many parents that when you're kid is ready, they'll be ready.  And Gwendolyn is very independent that I don't think it will take too long to train her when she's two or two and a half.

  • More thoughts on potty-training?  Are you currently in the process?  Let me know!

just for the record

Let it be known that I have attempted to write at least five posts over the course of the last month which have remained unfinished in my post queue.

Even now, as I looked forward to some time to write a post, Gwendolyn has decided she wants to whine her way through "quiet time."

It's as if she knows...

Anyways, I just thought you'd all like to know I'm working on it and there are a few posts pending.

We'll see what Gwendolyn and "Birdie" let me do in the next few days...

Monday, January 14, 2013

third trimester irrationality, and how God triumphs over it

My soul cries out 
My soul cries out for you
These bones cry out  
These dry bones cry for you  
To live and move  
'Cause only You can raise the dead 
Can lift my head up
My soul cries out  
My soul cries out for you
Jesus, You're the one who saves us 
Constantly creates us into something new  
Jesus, surely you will finds us 
Surely our Messiah will make all things new  
Will make all things new
Dry Bones, Gungor 

Image credit: Jim Nix/Nomadic Pursuits on flickr

Within the last month, I have sensed a slowing down -- as if my body and brain had started to move in molasses.  The third trimester and all its exhaustive glory has hit me hard.  My body has ceased being able to move at its active pace.  My brain has quit remembering things and indulging in creativity.  My patience has become a wispy thread.
But even more than that, hormonal changes are taking a toll.  Panic attacks have returned.  A slight depression has descended.  Even though I can objectively look at my life and be thankful and happy, subjectively my emotions are failing to keep up with reality.  Irrationality is taking over.
I could get into the details of my irrational thinking, but I don't want to spend much time dwelling in what's getting me down.  Instead, I want to remember that in our weaknesses, God is made strong -- that even when I feel like dry bones, God will make things new.  And in a very real sense, He is: through this pregnancy -- through the difficult and slow-moving days -- God is making a new creation.  My daughter.  This temporary sacrifice that I offer her is small in comparison with what God is doing.

All around  
Hope is springing up from this old ground  
Out of chaos life is being found in You
You make beautiful things  
You make beautiful things out of the dust  
You make beautiful things  
You make beautiful things out of us

- Beautiful Things, Gungor 


Monday, January 7, 2013

Our Williamsburg Vacation, and 5 Tips for Vacationing with a Toddler

Things have been a little quieter here than usual because we took a bit of an extended vacation for the holidays.  Even though Elliott only had to take off about 5 or 7 work days, with the combination of weekends and the holiday days, we were actually "off" for about 16 days in a row -- 10 of those days spent in Colonial Williamsburg.  Of course, I didn't "announce" this because... well, frankly -- it's the internet and it creeps me out when people know we're not home.

We're home now and I am happy to report no one got sick, there were no car troubles (excepting, of course, D.C. traffic), and we got to see a lot.

 By far, Gwen's favorite activities for the week: petting horsies and puppies.

 "Birdie" at 32(ish) weeks.  Vacation agreed with us (read: sleeping in and TONS of naps!!!).

 We were very excited about this find: the first theatre in the US.  Elliott and I met in theatre, after all.

 There were so many tradespeople to visit.  We didn't know what a "cooper" was until we stumbled upon his shop.  Apparently, they make round things like buckets, butter churns, and hoops for hoop skirts.

 We walked around CONSTANTLY.  It was great exercise.  Elliott also got to lift 25 pounds every day for several hours at a time since a little someone decided to reject her stroller for the week.

 The jail -- or as the colonials spelled it, "gaol."

 The best time of year to go to Williamsburg is immediately after New Years' Day.  The town completely clears out, but they still have all the sites up and running.

But by the end of the week, we were definitely ready to say our goodbyes and head home.

All that being said, we also learned a lot -- and not just about our nation's history.  The last time we took a vacation, Gwendolyn was about 9 months old.  Our vacation was absolutely ideal.  For whatever reason, Gwen decided to sleep a LOT, which meant we got to rest a LOT.  When we went out, she was easy to carry around on our backs, swaddled in front, or was completely content to stay in her stroller.

Going into this vacation, I suppose we had naive visions of the last one.  This brings me to my list of tips on vacationing with a toddler (Gwendolyn is 18 months and incredibly, wildly, and wonderfully active, so these tips might change with your own child).

1) Throw Away the Expectations
Like I said, we had naive expectations going in to this vacation.  Our last vacation was the most restful vacation I'd ever experienced.  Granted, we've never actually gone to a super-touristy area like Colonial Williamsburg, so the places we've gone to in the past have been very rural.  This means that the list of things we wanted to do were much longer this time.  But I had visions of Gwen sleeping long naps and letting us sleep in.  These visions did not happen.  She was a little wired from all the excitement from the holidays and running around with horses and carriages so her sleep cycle was askew.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't like she gave us four hours of extra reading time every afternoon.

So when things don't meet your expectations, you have two choices.  You can choose to dwell and sulk, or just choose to accept that your child is in a new and exciting stage of development and find ways to embrace it.  This meant that I didn't get as much reading and writing done as I had anticipated, but we were outside walking around a LOT.  We saw so many historical sites and learned a lot about history, and Gwen just charmed her way through town.  It was different for sure, but it was very enjoyable.

2) Remain Flexible
Once you throw away your expectations, it's important to keep an open mind for the week.  Even if you shift your expectations or throw them away all together, things will go array.  Your child might start screaming in the middle of the road because she doesn't want to sit in her stroller, wants to push it herself, and doesn't understand why you're trying to guide it away from the middle of the road.  Your child might want to wriggle her way out of your arms in order to touch every artifact in the room.  You might not get to spend as much time in the museums as you'd like because for whatever reason, your child is not as interested in 17th century-style harpsicords as you are.  

So when your child is screaming in the middle of the road, what are you going to do?  Well, we decided to walk back to the car and try again the next day.  This meant that the stroller was a pointless item to bring because it was only going to cause tears.  Instead, we let Gwen walk everywhere and carried her (well, Elliott carried her) when she was only circling around and around (as my dad put it, "We just walked half a mile but only moved 500 feet").  

It also means having a partner who is willing to sacrifice their own time for your benefit (and vice versa).  I really wanted to spend a good portion of my time perusing the folk art museum and old mental hospital, so Elliott took Gwen back for her nap and I got to peruse in peace.  Also, we took turns waking up with her in the morning so the other one could sleep in to their heart's content.  And when we were out, we were always prepared to shift gears and say, "This isn't working today.  Let's just go back home, watch some Elmo, and have nap time." 

3) Bring Along Some Grandparents
This is the best tip I could possibly give you: bring family, preferably grandparents who don't live close by.  The great thing about grandparents is that they WANT to spend ridiculous amounts of time with your children, so why not let them?  My parents were extremely gracious in letting us go out in the afternoons.  They whipped through the village in the mornings, came home after Gwen's nap time, and then let us go out to do tours that would be impossible to do with Gwen.  It allowed us to see and do a lot more than we would have been able to do otherwise.

We were also able to go out at night -- something we wouldn't be able to do if we were alone with the baby.  So we treated ourselves to Les Miserables (and being the very pregnant person I am, I absolutely wept through the entire movie, but that's another story).

4) Re-think Your Destination
Alright, don't get me wrong: I am SO happy we went to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.  It was seriously a dream come true -- a vacation I longed for since I was a kid (did I mention I grew up around living history?  My family and I did Revolutionary War reenacting, my dad STILL does it, and I was a tour guide at a 19th-century manor for a couple yearsLoving history is in my DNA).  But the whole time we were on vacation, I kept talking about bringing the girls back to Williamsburg when they are 5 and 7.  This type of place is better for kids who can truly interact with the history -- not a fantastic place for toddlers.  If we really thought through everything, we might have chosen a rural area -- quiet, mountains, no people, and not too much to do (but a nice coffee shop is a MUST).  That's not to say Gwendolyn didn't have a good time -- she did, and there was plenty for her to see (sheep!  cows!  horses!  funny hats! great big expanses of roads with no cars!), and we didn't have to pay for a ticket for her.  But I think we'll all have a much better time when we return a few years down the road.

5) Are You Pregnant?  REMEMBER that You're Pregnant!!
Sometimes I think I'm invincible.  And I am incredibly forgetful of what it's like to be pregnant -- even when I'm pregnant (if that doesn't make sense to you, try being pregnant and it will make sense).  Make sure you keep in mind what you will be able to do, and how your inability to do certain things will affect your partner.  For example, I couldn't carry Gwen for more than 5 minutes at a time.  This made for an exhausting trip for Elliott -- more exhausting than I realized.

We tried to keep the pregnancy in mind and even changed our original plans (to drive to Florida.  I can't even tell you how many times I said, "I am SO glad we didn't go to Florida!").  But still, I don't think we kept in mind how much more exhausting it would be for Elliott.  Luckily for us, we followed the advice of #3.  I can't emphasize #3 enough.
  • What did you do over Christmas and New Years'?
  • What tips do you have for vacationing with a toddler? 
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